Miscues sting Braves in 14-inning loss to Mets
Season-high three errors, wild pitch in decisive frame spell defeat
NEW YORK -- This certainly wasn't the prettiest way to conclude a successful road trip. Along with blemishing David Hale's start with multiple defensive miscues, the Braves' offense was unable to allow Gus Schlosser to celebrate what could have stood as a very memorable day vs. the Mets.
After the bullpens produced a valiant battle on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field, Curtis Granderson delivered a sacrifice fly off Schlosser that enabled the Mets to celebrate a 4-3, 14-inning win over the Braves.
"That's one of those games you want to win because after being out there that long, you want to take it home with you," said Braves catcher Gerald Laird, who was still wearing his eye-black despite being removed in the ninth inning of this contest that lasted four hours and 37 minutes.
With Craig Kimbrel and Jordan Walden standing as the last available relievers in Atlanta's 'pen, Schlosser returned to the mound in the 14th to work his fourth inning. The sidearm reliever issued a leadoff walk to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. This prompted Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to keep the double play in order by intentionally walking Eric Young Jr.
But this decision proved to be futile when Schlosser uncorked a wild pitch, sending the runners to second and third base. Granderson then sent his game-winning sacrifice fly to left center. Nieuwenhuis scored well ahead of the throw.
"I did the ultimate sin -- a leadoff walk and he ended up scoring," Schlosser said. "That is how baseball is. They bunted him over, intentionally walked a guy, and a wild pitch later all he has to do is put the bat on the ball. I was up and down a little bit. But I did the only thing you couldn't do there."
After Ian Thomas, David Carpenter, Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro kept the Mets silent over four innings, Schlosser was tasked with attempting to complete as many as four to five innings. He had been stretched out as a starting pitcher during Spring Training. But over the past three weeks, he had made just six appearances, none of which consisted of more than five outs.
Still, like Daisuke Matsuzaka -- who gave the Mets three scoreless innings that included five strikeouts -- Schlosser gave the Braves a chance to win on a day in which they committed a season-high three errors and limited their scoring to the three runs that came courtesy of the three consecutive doubles Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman recorded against Zack Wheeler with one out in the fifth inning.
"We tried to put Schlosser in the best possible position to be successful," Gonzalez said. "A wild pitch changes the whole dynamic. Overall, it's not going to diminish the job Schlosser did."
Freeman grounded into a double play to end the seventh, which began with the Braves putting runners at the corners with none out. Another scoring opportunity was thwarted when Justin Upton was stranded at third base after hitting a two-out triple in the 10th inning.
Schlosser recorded his first career hit, a single with one out in the top of the 14th. But hours after being removed from the closer's role, Jose Valverde then got Evan Gattis to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"You wish the hitters would change their mindsets," Gonzalez said. "We've seen so many times in these extra-inning games -- not only us, every team -- everybody wants to hit the ball out of the ballpark. You go away from your approach and do not keep the line moving. The next thing you know it's the [14th] inning. We had our opportunities. We just didn't take advantage."
The missed offensive opportunities hurt the Braves during the finale of this 4-2 road trip that began in Philadelphia. But extra innings might not have been needed had Justin Upton and Dan Uggla not made costly errors that blemished what was likely Hale's last Major League start for the foreseeable future.
With Mike Minor set to join Atlanta's rotation later this week, Hale will likely go to the bullpen or to Triple-A Gwinnett to continue serving as a starter. Unfortunately, he will make this transition with the bitter taste he felt while allowing three runs, two earned, in this six-inning effort against the Mets.
Hale's most critical mistake came in the second, when he issued a four-pitch walk to Omar Quintanilla to load the bases for Wheeler, who produced an RBI grounder that Uggla fielded and then bobbled while attempting to throw to first base. This miscue was nowhere as costly as the one Atlanta's second baseman made four innings later.
After Atlanta grabbed a 3-2 lead with the three consecutive doubles against Wheeler, Hale surrendered consecutive singles to begin the bottom of the sixth. But he positioned himself to escape unscathed before Uggla booted Lucas Duda's routine double-play grounder.
"It [stinks]," Uggla said. "I make that play nine out of 10, or 99 times out of 100. But today, it just ate me up."
Uggla's inability to turn the inning-ending double play allowed David Wright to cross the plate with the tying run. Instead of allowing his emotions get the best of him, Hale finished his outing by escaping the sixth without further damage.
"We had some opportunities to score some runs," Gonzalez said. "We didn't get it done and it came back and bit us in the end."